The German government may revive nationwide conscription in times of crisis, such as situations in which the country needs to “defend NATO’s external borders,” according to local media citing a controversial paper drafted by the Interior Ministry.
The so-called “Civil Defense Concept,” which is due to be discussed by the German cabinet on Wednesday, mainly focuses on fulfilling Germany’s obligations to defend NATO’s external border.
However, the controversial proposal to revive conscription does not lie on the surface and can only be found buried in a section entitled “Civil support for the armed forces,” according to DPA news agency.
“Quick and reliable delivery of mail especially important for the Bundeswehr (in particular, call-up papers and notices of performance in times of reintroduction of conscription) is ensured under Post- and Telecommunications Safety Act,” reads the draft cited by DPA.
Conscription was suspended in Germany in 2011 after long-standing debates in the government and society, with advocacy groups and experts arguing that it was no longer necessary for the country to maintain a large Cold War-era standing army to defend Europe from a perceived Soviet threat.
In June, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said conscription will not be reintroduced, notwithstanding renewed tensions with Russia and the terror threat posed by Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL).
Conscription is specifically authorized in the German constitution and can be returned with a simple law approved by the parliament, according to Die Zeit.
Apart from conscription, the German Interior Ministry’s paper also mentions the obligations of civilians and civilian organizations to assist the Bundeswehr in other ways, particularly by helping “recruitment organizations and accommodation infrastructure.”
Some of the military’s support functions could also be outsourced to civilian companies, such as “a limited provision of catering for the troops during operations,” the paper reportedly says.
However, then the document goes far beyond modern-day military outsourcing tasks and discusses other proposals resembling war-time measures.
In times of crisis, the draft reads, the federal government can ensure “nutritional emergency preparedness” by imposing “tax obligations relating to cultivation, processing, distribution and sale of food products.”
Other excerpts from the paper previously leaked by German media included the idea of making citizens stockpile food and water reserves – enough to last at least ten days – in the event of a major disaster or a military invasion.
The “Civil Defense Concept” marks the first time since the Cold War that the German government has considered such measures, but the plan was devised as early as 2012, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine.